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Author Archives: Tom

“LAND OF OPPORTUNITY” (Thursday, October 7, 2010)

Started the day with an interview with local CBS affiliate WIBW TV:


Spent the rest of the morning on the phone lining up events and media in Lawrence. Here’s a shout out to Brook Graham (Bruce and Michelle’s daughter) for lining up media and speaking opportunities for me in Lawrence, and for finding me a place to stay.

As I’m preparing to check out of the hotel, the owner, Madan Rattan, joked about wanting to keep the trike in his lobby to boost his business. He then asked me about my trip, which sparked a fascinating conversation about his personal journey from India to Saudi Arabia and ultimately the United States (with $6 dollars in his wallet – it’s still there). Madan is now a successful businessman, grateful to be living in the “land of opportunity.” His primary message is we can do anything as a nation and people, if we will but only focus and prioritize. It’s not much more complicated than that.

Rode a relatively easy 31 miles ride today to Lawrence. Rolled into town and walked into a coffee shop to ask about the closest campground. Checking my voicemail, there was a message from Democratic State Senator Marci Francisco – who is an Analyst at the KU Center for Sustainability – offering me a room in her home for the night, only a few blocks away. After being treated to a wonderful home-cooked dinner with her and her husband, Joe, spent the rest of the night holed up in their 3rd floor loft catching up on emails.

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“THE CAPITOL DOME” (Wednesday, October 6, 2010)

Kicked off the day with an interview with local ABC affiliate KTKA TV near campus:


Then swung by Big Poppi Bicycle Co. to pick up some supplies (thanks for the free chain lube!). Then pedaled over to campus for an interview with the Kansas State Collegian:


After that, packed up my gear and was escorted out of town by Zack Pistora on his bike. I want to give a shout out to Zack, Kevin, Eric, Dave, Alex, Shane, Kristen and Bryce for making me feel so welcome during my brief stay in Manhattan. Hope to see you guys in Boulder during Thanksgiving for the CU-KSU game.

On the road to Topeka, dropped into the offices of The Wamego Times and St. Marys Star for more interviews and photos of the trike.


Also saw one the largest coal plants in the country (over 2000 MW) in the distance riding through the Kansas countryside.  The sight of those three giant smokestacks spewing toxic pollutants into the air was a sobering reminder of how big a job we have ahead of us.

Finally rolled into Topeka (for a total of 60 miles on the day), but after being severely rattled for several miles through a section of Hwy. 24 being repaved, I learned that the campground I was looking for was nowhere near my current location, with the sun already setting on the horizon, so instead of risking another flat tire, I decided to grab my first hotel room of the trip.

After a quick shower, I was picked up by Republican State Representative Vern Swanson (a friend of State Rep. Elaine Bowers), who along with his wife, Susie, treated me to dinner downtown. After an enjoyable conversation over dinner, I was graciously offered a tour of the Capitol Building, which ended up becoming a very special tour, indeed, when the night guard, whose love of the historic building was contagious, proceeded to show us all the amazing things about the rotunda that most people never get to see. I learned a lot about Kansas’ fascinating populist history. Then it was back to the motel, for some badly needed Zs.

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“FUELED BY STUDENT ENERGY“ (Tuesday, October 5, 2010)

Kicked the day off with a 7:00am talk at the Concordia Optimists Club. Must remember to get some caffeine in my system before doing early morning talks. Next up was an 8:00am talk to the Chamber of Commerce, both generously lined up by Republican State Representative Elaine Bowers. Was very impressed with the turnout, and deep level of engagement, at both events. Afterwards, did a radio interview with Joe Jindra at Concordia radio station KNCK. To listen, click on the “7:00 Report” at the link below (the interview start at 3:20 and ends at 6:14):


Then pedaled 20 or so miles to Clay Center, where I experienced one of the highlights of the trip. Rolled the bike up to the front of Lincoln Elementary School for some shots by the Clay Center Dispatch, then the entire second grade class (nearly 100 children) streamed out the doors and surrounded the rocket trike. I told them what I was doing and why (for them) and we had a really fun 30-minute Q & A session. My heart melted when afterwards one little girl hugged my leg and looked up at me with a huge smile of gratitude on her face. That fueled me for the rest of the day.

Knocked out a little over 50 more miles to Manhattan, for a total of 78 miles on the day. More hawk sightings today, with fuzzy caterpillars replacing beetles on the shoulder. On the way, did an interview with the Salina Journal:


Found my way to the KSU campus and “Aggieville,” where I want to give a shout out to Tex at Radinas coffee shop for the mocha on the house, and to Austin Graham (Bruce and Michelle’s son), for offering me a couch to sleep on.

Ruth Douglas Miller , Director of the Kansas Wind Application Center, had generously called a number of media outlets for me and had put me in touch with Zack Pistora, president of KSU’s Students for Environmental Action (SEA). More synchronicity: they just happened to be having their organizational meeting tonight, so Zack invited me to speak. Ruth, her son and the foreign exchange student they were hosting walked me over to where the SEA meeting was taking place, where I rolled the trike into the meeting room and spoke for about 45 minutes. KSU is rocking it. That’s the biggest meeting of student environmental activists I’ve ever seen. The energy I received from the students I spoke with afterwards (like Shelley Fritz) almost defies description and will help fuel me the rest of the way to DC.

Afterwards, knocked back a few drinks with my new KSU buddies at the Purple Pig (thanks, Bryce, for the killer marg), where we had some incredibly inspired conversations on the power of embracing life’s positive potential. Crashed at their pad after Kevin, Zack and I stayed up until 2:00am working on a tracking map for my website, but ended up not sleeping a wink (too much racing through my head), so got out of bed at 7:00 and worked some more on my blog.

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“FRONT LINES OF THE WIND REVOLUTION” (Monday, October 4, 2010)

Had the extremely good fortune this morning to speak to three classes at Cloud County Community College’s (CCCC) Wind Technology Center: Electrical Theory, Airfoils & Composite Repair, and Wind Turbine Siting. It was incredibly energizing to engage so many highly motivated students who are on the front lines of making the wind revolution happen. CCCC’s program is the only college in Kansas approved to offer an Associate of Applied Science degree in Wind Energy Technology, and includes two of their own 100 kilowatt turbines (one I had climbed) to learn in, on and around. Received lots of enthusiastic feedback on the 100% by 2020 vision. People are anxious to see this green industrial revolution happen for America, and the world.

Later had lunch with Bruce and Republican State Representative Elaine Bowers, whose district includes CCCC and Horizon’s 201 megawatt wind project (politicians would be more favorably viewed if more of them shared Elaine’s refreshing public service ethic). After lunch, pedaled over to the Concordia Blade, which ran a front page story on the ride, as did the Miltonvale Record. Ended the day with a round of Frisbee golf, for a little exercise.

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“HOLED UP” (Sunday, October 3, 2010)

Spent the entire day holed up in the Graham’s basement, updating my blog and website. Emerged from my den just long enough to join the family for some locally-grown, home-cooked meals and to talk about the trike with friends and relatives who stopped by. The generosity being extended to me by the Graham family is one of the things I love the most about this country. They are truly a family of givers and I can’t thank them enough.

Tonight, Connor generously helped me clean up the trike (his dad just wishes he could get that kind of help from him detailing his truck), so she’s looking good as new. Michelle and Republican State Representative Elaine Bowers meanwhile have been lining up enough public talks and media interviews to keep me busy for the next couple of days.

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“CLIMBING A WIND TURBINE” (Saturday, October 2, 2010)

Easy ride today. Pedaled a quick 23 miles south to Concordia to meet Michelle and Bruce Graham, joined by their teenage son, Connor. Received the red carpet treatment. Started out with a grand tour of the Cloud County Community College Wind Technology Center, where Bruce teaches. Cloud County should very proud to host one the nation’s first and largest certified wind technology schools in the country. At lunch, got an opportunity to interview Tom Cunningham, one of the landowners working with Horizon Wind Energy on the local Meridian Way project.

After that, loaded the trike onto a trailer (to haul it to the Graham’s, where I’ll be staying for the next couple of days) and headed down the road to the school’s two 100- kilowatt wind turbines. After getting harnessed up, Bruce walked Michelle and I through the routine for tower climbs. Then the three of us scrambled 100 feet up the ladder inside the tower to a small platform at the top.

When I popped through, I was surprised by how little floor there was versus the size of the hole (where you could see all the way to the bottom). I guess I was expecting something a little more substantial.

Then Bruce opened the door to the outside of the nacelle (the name for the compartment at the top of the tower) and showed me the tiny ledge.  I asked him if he was expecting me to walk out on that little ledge, and he said, “That’s what you wanted, wasn’t it?” He was right, of course, so I clipped in, put one foot on the ledge and shimmied a few feet over to the ladder rungs on the top of the nacelle to check out the view from outside the tower. For someone who’s not a big fan of heights, I sure had a good time out there on that little ledge 100’ off the ground.

Then interviewed Bruce inside the nacelle.

After descending back to terra firma, we drove to the nearby Meridian Way project, a 201 megawatt project developed by Horizon that boasts 3 megawatt Vestas wind turbines (the largest installed anywhere in America). Very impressive. We need lots more wind projects like this, and bigger, and we need them yesterday.

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“HITTING THE WALL & BREAKING THROUGH” (Friday, October 1, 2010)

The day started off well. Early up with the sun, with a fellow bike enthusiast and his two little dogs stopping by to check out the trike as I was breaking camp. Was hoping to make Concordia by the end of the day, but breakfast up the street at a local diner led to one conversation after another… and I didn’t get out of Paul’s Diner until past 10:00am, but still wanted to swing by the office of the Smith County Pioneer. So I pedaled into town, only to be told by Linda Levin their photographer was out. Then in walked Linda’s husband (who I had met at the diner just moments before, and had happened to take some pictures of the trike), so that took care of that.

On my way out of town, stopped at a convenience store to fill up my water bladders and up drives Alvin Devlin, who I’d also met at the diner (where he was telling me about a major wind project Smith County was developing). He wanted me to meet Smith Center Economic Development Director Pam Barta and drove me back into town to her office. After our video interview, Pam then invited me to speak at the monthly Chamber of Commerce luncheon, taking place 10 minutes later, which I was happy to do. Didn’t get out of town until after 1:00pm, with 60 miles to knock out. So much for my early start.

Don’t know if it was the late start, or just the miles catching up with me, but had a really rough ride day today. Low energy and not feeling particularly strong. Runners call it “hitting the wall.” Three and a half hours later, I limp into Mankato, hoping some food might give me a boost. First I stopped by the Jewell County Record, where they took a shot of the trike. Then I pedaled down the alley to a local diner to try and reenergize with some food.

When the proprietor saw my bike, she asked where I was riding. When I told her Washington, DC, she laughed out loud. Then she asked when I expected to arrive, and when I told her that, she guffawed again. I finished my meal, silently thanking her for the motivation, and knocked out the next 30 miles to Belleville in record time. More hawk sightings. Busted through the wall today, logging 64 miles in 6 hours of riding, but am still looking forward to some rest and recuperation this weekend.

Small town Kansas really has it going. I’m writing this from a free (yes, such things still exist) campground on the outskirts of Belleville, KS, where I just enjoyed a hot (yes, hot) shower. I needed it, after today’s ride.

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“PRAIRIE DOGS & CURIOUS COWS” (Thursday, September 30, 2010)

Slept under a beautiful Cottonwood tree and woke up feeling more refreshed than I’ve felt the whole trip. The campsite was so peaceful, I decided to take the morning off and take my time getting out of there. Visited the Prairie Dog colony on my way out of the park, but was surprised by its size. It was smaller than most prairie dog colonies scattered throughout Boulder.

Finally hit the road a about a quarter till noon, rolling into Norton 30 minutes later. Grabbed some lunch at a local diner and stopped by the Norton Telegraph for an interview and shot of the trike.


Later rolled down Main Street in Prairie View, and then Stuttgart, on my way to Phillipsburg, where the Advocate took a shot of the trike and did a quick interview.

Met my first fellow recumbent bike rider today, as I was leaving Phillipsburg. Told me he was a bear hunter and kept in shape for hunting season by riding (he finds the recumbent more comfortable than a regular bike). When I told him my route east, he suggested a more bike friendly route, which worked out well, so thanks, Bill!

On this trip, I have pedaled by more cows interested in my yellow rocket trike than you can shake a stick at. I really think cows have gotten a bad rap, because you can’t be both curious and dumb. More often than not, the cows I come upon stop what they’re doing, look at me, and continue watching me long after I’ve passed. Same with most horses I’ve come across on this trek (some have even eagerly run up to the fence for a closer look). I guess they’re just bored with cars and trucks (having seen so many of them over the years) and are trying to figure out what this yellow, futuristic-looking thing riding past them is. I’ve even had cows and bulls as far as hundreds of yards away look up and check out the trike. It’s really quite something and happens all the time.

Rolled down the main streets of Agra and Kensington on my way to Smith Center, where I again arrived just as the sun had set and it was starting to get dark. On the way, had two cars pull over ahead of me to get photos of the trike. The driver of the second, Judy, was kind enough to tell me where I could camp for free in town, which is where I’m writing this now, snuggled into my cozy tent. More hawk sightings today. Logged 72 miles, for a total of 500 miles ridden so far (about 20% of the way there).

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“CROSSWINDS & PAIN” (Wednesday, September 29, 2010)

Gusting crosswinds all day made for slow going, especially up the numerous hills that characterize western Kansas.

Late in the morning, the pain in my right knee got so bad I decided it was time to kick in the electric-assist motor for the bigger hills, and I’m glad I did, because the day was full of them. Getting a little electric assist on the tougher hills took a lot of strain off the knee and made the pedaling more bearable. We’ll see how it feels tomorrow. Today was another good media day. Rolled down Main Street in Atwood and did an interview with the Rawlins County Square Deal:

Rolled up to country music radio station KFNF off Hwy. 36 and did an interview there before heading to Oberlin for a stop at the Oberlin Herald where the office cat runs the show.

Interesting how the last few days I was constantly dodging grasshoppers in the shoulder. Today there were almost none (due to the wind, I suppose), but lots of black beetles negotiating their way across the treacherous (to them) asphalt strip. Did my best not to add to their troubles. More hawk sightings today.

Didn’t want to spend tonight in another town square, so took a calculated risk and pushed for the turn-off to Prairie Dog State Park, hoping I could make it before the sun went down and it got too dangerous to ride. Was a tough slog at the end of an already long day (8 hours of riding for a total of 82 miles on the day), but only missed my mark by 15 minutes. Wouldn’t have wanted to ride on that shoulder five minutes longer, though. Finally rolled into Prairie Dog State Park just as it was getting dark and the mosquitos were getting active.

They have a beautiful campground nestled next to a reservoir, with free showers and not too many people this time of year. Looking forward to seeing the dogs in the morning.

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“FARMERS GREENING THE GRID” (Tuesday, September 28, 2010)

Grabbed a quick breakfast at the Wray Diner, swung by the Wray Gazette on my way out of town, then hit the road. Two hawk encounters early in the day, then a bunch of tough hills in SW Nebraska and NW Kansas, making for slow going most of the way. Still knocked out 73 miles. Haven’t used the electric-assist motor yet, but may have to reconsider, given the worsening pain in my right knee. Saw this iconic windmill in Nebraska.

Pedaled down Main Street in St. Francis and found the offices of the St. Francis Herald, where I did a brief interview and they took some shots of the trike.

St. Francis Herald Article

Then hit Main Street, Bird City, where I met some more really nice folks (cuious about the trike – like pretty much everywhere I go) and wolfed down some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Almost everyone I’ve met so far enthusiastically supports the “100% by 2020” goal.

Next town up was McDonald, where I was pedaling down Main Street and received a nice surprise: two very large residential wind turbines at the edge of town.

Popped into the liquor store to ask who owned them, and the proprietor called the owner, who promptly drove down and met me. After a brief conversation, A.B. Fisher invited me back to his house, where he spoke with me on why its important to him to become energy independent. He also had a few choice words for Congress. A.B. personifies the kind of can-do, entrepreneurial American spirit we need to get this country back on track.

That night, camped in McDonald’s town square.

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